Ethnic diversity, or the lack thereof, in the new Bible movies

One of the issues that some people have had with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah — it was never a big-enough deal to become a full-fledged controversy, per se — concerns the ethnicity of the actors.

The film depicts the annihilation of the entire human race, except for one family that will go on to produce the entire human race as we know it today — so it seems a little odd to some people that pretty much every character we see in this film fits into a single ethnic category, i.e. Caucasian.

It seems even more odd when one considers that the human race was entirely dark-skinned at first, and that lighter skin was a later genetic mutation that emerged as certain population groups moved “into areas of low UV radiation”. The film flips this around by positing that the entire human race was light-skinned at first, or at least right after the Flood, and thus darker skin must have evolved later.

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Bible movie of the week: Samson and Delilah (1949)

The Bible epic, as a genre, is typically associated with the 1950s, and for good reason. That’s when Hollywood churned out a series of Bible-themed films, such as David and Bathsheba (1951), The Robe (1953) and The Ten Commandments (1956); and both the decade and the genre reached their climax with Ben-Hur (1959), which won a record number of Oscars in addition to becoming one of the biggest box-office hits of all time.

But the decade arguably got its start in the 1940s, when Cecil B. DeMille produced Samson and Delilah (1949), starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr. It was the first major Bible movie made by an American studio since the silent era — or since the early sound era, if we count DeMille’s The Sign of the Cross (1932), which takes place after the Book of Acts, as a “Bible movie” — and it was a fairly big hit, thereby paving the way for all the bathrobe epics that followed.

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The Bible / What works and what doesn’t in the ambitious mini-series

It’s common these days for each new episode of a TV series to begin with a montage that sums up all the relevant plot points from previous episodes. So it was only natural that, when the History Channel aired its five-part mini-series The Bible over the month of March, all but one of the episodes began with narrator Keith David intoning, in his deep baritone voice, “Previously, on The Bible…”

All of the show’s strengths and weaknesses are captured in that one phrase. Produced by Mark Burnett (a TV mogul best known for unscripted “reality” shows like Survivor and The Apprentice) and his wife Roma Downey (who once starred in Touched by an Angel), the mini-series rushes through the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in ten hours — though it’s more like seven, once you bracket off the commercial breaks — and it zips through the stories so quickly that you barely notice when they are compressed even further in those opening sequences. But the mini-series also makes a point of emphasizing the continuity between Bible stories in a way that is quite rare among Bible films, and in a way that sometimes allows individual stories to shed light profitably on others.

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The Bible: second episode, first impressions

Another week, another episode of the mini-series The Bible. These are my first impressions of the second episode.

The pacing, redux. The second episode is 86 minutes long, and the first six minutes consist of footage from the first episode, so that leaves only 80 minutes for the second episode to take us all the way from the spies in Jericho to the birth of King Solomon — a period that covers about two or three centuries.

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Putting a bit of the New Testament into the Old

I just came across a few more videos from The Bible, the mini-series that premieres on the History Channel next month.

In one, the actress who plays Samson’s mother describes her character as “a woman who’s been given a gift from God of a very special child who’s predestined to do very special things, and I guess that’s a little connection to another story that we all know very well.” She goes on to say, “I guess I found it difficult to embody a character who knows that her child is going to die.”

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Samson and the upcoming Bible mini-series

For just over a month now, the History Channel has been releasing a series of clips and trailers to promote their mini-series The Bible, which premieres March 3. The promotional campaign started, appropriately enough for mid-December, with a couple of Christmas-themed ads, and it has since moved on to clips and images from other parts of the Good Book.

Today my fellow Patheos blogger Rebecca Cusey posted one of the first images of Samson, who is played by British actor Nonso Anozie. And, as you can see, this Samson looks a little different from the Samsons you might have seen in earlier films or TV shows.

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